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Federal Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Against TennCare, Suit Upgraded

Press release from the Tennessee Justice Center; September 2, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A federal judge granted relief to residents across Tennessee today by ordering the state to provide hearings to residents whose Medicaid applications have been unreasonably delayed, according to a ruling in a case brought by a coalition of
civil rights groups.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell granted a preliminary injunction sought by the groups and certified the
litigation as a class action lawsuit, meaning that it applies to all people in Tennessee who have waited months for a determination
on their applications for the program, TennCare. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Tennessee Justice Center and the
National Health Law Program filed the lawsuit.

The court’s order takes immediate effect.

“This is a profound victory for all of Tennessee,” said Sara Zampierin, SPLC staff attorney. “The court’s ruling today will require TennCare to do their job and ensure that the people who have been stuck waiting for a decision for months will be able to finally receive the health care they deserve.”

The court rejected the state’s attempt to blame the federal government for its own failings, ruling instead that the state is responsible for its administration of the TennCare program, and noting that “[i]f a state decides to participate in the Medicaid
program, it is required to ensure that applications are adjudicated reasonably promptly.” The court further rejected the state’s claim that it has no “backlogs,” noting that the existence of this lawsuit proved that many people are suffering.

“We are jubilant that the vulnerable Tennesseans will now get the care upon which their lives and futures depend,” said Michele
Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. “We look forward to working with state officials to develop a process
that protects the health of Tennesseans and the infrastructure upon which we all rely.”

The court ordered that a fair hearing be provided to all class members who have proof of application and request such a hearing. The hearings will be held within 45 days, unless the person’s eligibility is based on a disability, in which case the State will have 90 days to conduct the hearing.

“We are pleased that Judge Campbell recognized this as a statewide problem,” said Elizabeth Edwards, Staff Attorney at the
National Health Law Program. “The law requires Medicaid applications to be processed promptly because low-income
individuals and people with disabilities often have a brutal need for health care that, without TennCare coverage, they will be unable to afford.”

A copy of the order can be viewed here: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/case-docket/Melissa-Wilson-et-al-v-Darin-Gordon-et-al.

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Senate Resolution Supports Boater Access to Water Above, Below TN Dams

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 8, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legislation sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) expressing the Tennessee General Assembly’s desire to allow boater access to waters above and below 10 Tennessee dams is headed to the Senate floor on Monday night. Senate Joint Resolution 132 , which was approved by the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Wednesday, urges the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to work with local communities and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regarding alternative safety methods rather than banning the use of the waters to the public. The Dams include Barkley, Center Hill, Cheatham, Cordell Hull, Dale Hollow, J. Percy Priest, Laurel River, Martins Fork, Old Hickory, and Wolf Creek.

Beavers said the resolution compliments measures being taken by Governor Lamar Alexander and other state leaders to stop the Corps’ restrictions.

The Corp announced plans in December to restrict boat, swimming and wading access at various distances at the dams for reasons of public safety and to adhere to a policy adopted nationally in 1996. The project is expected to cost approximately $2 million.

Beavers’ resolution calls on the Corp of Engineers “to hold the current plan in abeyance until alternative plans are investigated that promote both boater safety and recognition of the outstanding fishing and tourism opportunity in these areas.”

“Fishermen have used these waters since these dams have been in existence,” said Senator Beavers. “This resolution just lets the Corps and our congressional delegation know that it is that the State of Tennessee, through their elected representatives, is asking them to reconsider these restrictions. The action to close the waters, which have some of the highest fish catch rates, would negatively impact fishing, recreation and tourism in my Senatorial district. It will have an economic impact on many citizens in the Middle Tennessee region.”

The resolution also claims the waters, “and the fish therein are publicly-owned resources held in trust by the State of Tennessee for the citizens.” It says the 1996 restrictions being implemented by the Corp are based on bank full conditions with major spillway gates open. This is done “without recognition for either the current economic conditions or more normal water flow levels,” the resolution continues. In addition, the resolution claims that historic safety data does not support the current proposal being implemented by the Nashville District for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restrict boat access.

“We have not seen data showing that the accident rate is higher in these waters than other waters,” added Beavers. “There has got to be a better way for the Corps to address safety concerns, whether it is targeting measures to the time during which the spillway gate is open or tougher enforcement of current boater safety laws.”

If passed, the resolution will be delivered to members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation and Corps of Engineers.

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Democrats, Haslam Push Tax-Relief Extension for Flood Victims

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, Feb. 15, 2011:

Bill would extend previous sales tax break to April 30

NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats were joined by Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday in recommending that tax relief for May 2010 flood victims be extended through the end of April.

“Many of our hardest-hit constituents were still rebuilding and repairing their houses by the time the original tax break ended,” said Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville), the lead sponsor of the extension. “This extension gives them the chance to turn their houses into their homes again.”

Senate Bill 6 would exempt flood victims registered with FEMA from sales tax on home appliances, building materials and large furniture items, up to a cap of $2,500. That tax cap would cover roughly $27,000 of purchases. Those who have already taken advantage of the tax relief would still be eligible, as long as they have not hit the cap.

The May 2010 floods ravaged Middle and West Tennessee, killing 26 people and causing more than $2 billion in damage in the Nashville area alone. Cleanup efforts are still ongoing in some communities.

“Less than a year ago, much of our state was underwater,” said Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), the bill’s cosponsor. “We haven’t forgotten that our neighbors are still recovering and still need our help.”

The bill passed unanimously through the Tax Subcommittee of the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday with the governor’s recommendation. Two similar bills also passed, but bill sponsors said they would likely support Senate Bill 6, pending action in the House. The House version of the bill is in a subcommittee.

Senator Douglas Henry represents portions of Davidson County. Senator Lowe Finney represents Madison, Carroll and Gibson Counties.

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Garth Brooks Flood-Relief Concert Set for Dec. 17 at Bridgestone Arena

State of Tennessee Press Release, Oct. 28, 2010;

Country Star To Perform In Nashville For First Time Since 1998; Concert Will Benefit Victims Of The Tennessee Floods

NASHVILLE, October 28, 2010 – For the first time since 1998, Garth Brooks is returning to Nashville to perform Friday, December 17th, 7:00 PM at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, benefiting The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in support of all those affected by the disastrous flooding this past spring.

Garth Brooks had this to say, “I have watched with great pride how the volunteer state has pulled together to rise above the damage suffered by the floods. It was a small church sign in Hendersonville that changed my life decades ago when I read, ‘Character is not created in crisis…it is revealed.’ Tennessee has shown amazing character through all of this and it is an honor to get to be a part of the healing process.”

The tickets will be $25 plus handling with the hope that even those who suffered might be able to attend. 100% of the $25.00 ticket will go to those in need. “There will be only one arena show we’ll do this year and it will be in Nashville,” said Brooks. Further ticketing and concert information will be released at 12 noon central time, Wednesday, November 3rd.

Garth Brooks added, “Nashville is what young people dream of. As Miss Ellen said: disaster is only a disaster until the next one comes along. If you come to Vegas you’ll see Garth Brooks and a guitar. If you come to Nashville you’ll see the band and me as you know us with the lighting and sound that you know. We are following in the footsteps of who already set the example. We are all Tennesseans helping Tennessee.”

The announcement was made Thursday morning from the State Capitol Building, with

the attendance and support of Governor Phil Bredesen, Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker, Congressman Jim Cooper, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, Mayor Karl Dean and Ellen Lehman, President of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“The impact of May’s flooding is still being felt in Tennessee as communities continue to rebuild,” said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. “I’m extremely pleased to see that the great outpouring of support for flood victims that was a hallmark of the early response continues, and I appreciate the leadership of all the members of Nashville’s music family who, like Garth, have organized events or established funds to help Tennesseans rebuild their lives.”

“Many Tennesseans are still recovering from the biggest natural disaster since the president took office — floods that left 47 Tennessee counties declared disaster areas. The flooding didn’t get much national attention, in part because Tennesseans started cleaning up and helping each other instead of looting and complaining,” Senator Lamar Alexander said. “I thank Garth for bringing Tennesseans together through his music and I know the proceeds from the concert, which he is generously contributing to the cleanup, will be put to good use helping people put their lives back together.”

“Because of the extraordinary compassion and commitment of our people, six months after the flood, Tennessee has made great progress—but the work is not done. I thank Garth for bringing his talents and energy to this cause. Music can be a powerful tool for good, and I hope the awareness and money this concert raises will help affected Tennesseans continue to recover and rebuild their lives and communities,” said U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

“I have been so proud of the way our community has responded to this disaster but we can’t forget that a lot of families are still recovering,” said Congressman Jim Cooper. “Garth Brooks’ dedication to the long term flood recovery continues to show that the volunteer spirit in Music City is stronger than ever.”

“Our salvation from the spring floods was the abundance of talented, resourceful, and compassionate Tennesseans. Garth is certainly one of those talented, compassionate, and generous. I am happy to join the Davidson County delegation in thanking him for his efforts,” said Congressman Marsha Blackburn.

“The generous spirit of the music industry has been a tremendous help in Nashville’s recovery, not only through direct financial support of telethons and concerts, but also by showing the world that we’re still Music City and that we’re open for business,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said. “I appreciate Garth for using his talent and resources to bring attention to the ongoing needs of our community and state as we work hard to recover, and for holding an event that will draw visitors from around the country to come experience all that Nashville has to offer.”

“For a few flood victims, the journey to rebuilding their lives is complete. For most, however, the work to rebuild their lives and livelihood, their homes, and their broken hearts continues and will continue for months if not years,” said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “We, as The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, remain grateful for and humbled by every gift we’ve received for flood relief. Garth Brooks’ donation of what may well be a once in a lifetime event will have enormous impact on the ongoing work of recovery and we are grateful.”

About Garth Brooks

Certified by the RIAA as the #1 selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks has sold in excess of 128 million albums. He is the only solo artist in RIAA history to have 6 albums top the 10 million mark. In 2007 Garth became the first artist to put out a simultaneous edition of his latest collection for a charitable cause. The “pink edition” of The Ultimate Hits was and is available only at the Susan G Komen website. His body of work – including the groundbreaking No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Hits, and Double Live – propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, “Country Conquers Rock” and featured Garth in a major music piece. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century.

The key to his record-setting success lies within the personality and talent of Garth Brooks. It has been said that through the 1990s, Garth’s only real competition was himself. He brought daring individualism and a love of music to the table. His wide range encompasses a variety of styles which include working class blues, honky tonk, bluegrass, and arena rock. His easy-going, approachable charisma was matched only by his fearless willingness to take chances and step outside the lines. He has had an unprecedented run so far, and opened the doors for many more country artists to follow.

Garth has received every accolade the recording industry can bestow on an artist, including: 2 Grammys, 17 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 5 World Music Awards, 12 People’s Choice Awards, and 36 Billboard Music Awards. He was named Artist of the ‘90s at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, received the Artist Achievement Award at the 1997 Billboard Music Awards, and was named Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards in 2000 and the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1999.

In the midst of one of the most successful careers in music history, Garth retired in 2001, delivered his last record for Capitol Records and moved back to Oklahoma to raise his children.. While in retirement when called upon by events greater than his own self-interest, he returned to the stage. The latest of these was when the President himself requested that Garth headline President Obama’s Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. He performed as Barack and Michelle Obama, their girls, Joe and Jill Biden and a crowd of over 300,000 lined the mall from the Lincoln Memorial all the way to the Washington Monument. It was a moment in history when all did the “wave” to Garth’s performance of “Shout” while the President sang along. Once again, Garth was called upon by the network to perform for President Obama’s very first late night TV appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay. When the Governor of California asked for Garth’s help he responded by performing five concerts in two days where proceeds from 83,000 tickets sold were donated to efforts to prevent fire catastrophes from happening again. Portions of the live concerts were shown as a TV special titled, “Garth Brooks: Live in L.A.” where viewers donated to the organization Fire Intervention Relief Effort (FIRE).

Oct. 15th, 2009 Brooks announced that he was out of retirement. “I am naturally nervous, but it feels good to be out from under the low ceiling of “retirement” I put on myself.” Brooks has entered a 5 year “relationship” with Las Vegas resort developer, Steve Wynn.